Sunday, December 10, 2017

Week 5

 2 babies in 5 weeks... slow on the take off, but amazing none the less! 38 more to go.  During my hour and a half drive home this morning, I was thinking this leg of my journey seems so surreal.  During each visit with women, the knowledge in my head is like swiss cheese with 'holes' of data missing.  I love filling the gaps.  I really do love learning... listening to the midwives I'm with, looking up evidence to support a practice or treatment, and learning from the women I meet.  Here's a synopsis of the last few weeks (my intentions were to keep up weekly = fail).

To receive the encouragement from my husband & boys to go and catch a baby is both humbling and empowering; metal speculums ARE better than plastic; menopause sucks (it was news to me that, generally speaking, women in their 60's are either not having sex any more or not very often - reality check); I found every cervix this last week - they can be a bit elusive sometimes; a small snip to the hymenal ring during 2nd stage can make a big difference (this is NOT an episiotomy, which should rarely be done by BTW); I've never seen so many shades of purple & blue inside a vagina after birth - it looks like a war took place in there!; LOVED spending a day with the Amish...they may have some interesting rules, but they exude peace, have a simpler way of living to be respected, and know how to tolerate labor & birth with little complaint; on the day I caught my first baby, on my drive home there was the biggest letter V front & center in the sky made by the paths of jet planes... Vivian knew how big of a moment this first 'catch' was for me; packing a lunch is wise; the warmth of a newborn baby in my hands feels like... love magnified.  I am blessed.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Awkwardly Comfortable

 Related image

Clinical Week 1: Awkwardly comfortable is what came to mind at the end of my second day in clinic as a student nurse midwife.  I've never felt this comfortable in a new role... ever.  With as much as I still need to learn, it felt so right.  A little synopsis of my two days...

Each pregnant belly is amazing in shape and with the little earned nuisances of scars, varying shades of the linea nigra, and tone.  To witness the eyes of 1st time parents light up instantly at the sound of their less than 10wk old baby's heartbeat is magical.  I want to learn to speak spanish well.  Thankful that the wet sticky substance found under a waistband while checking a fundal height was just left over sono gel (phew!).  I can't wait to master the Art of Leopold's Maneuvers.  Surrogacy is an indescribable gift to give another.  Is there such a thing as stylish comfortable shoes?  How amazing it was to witness a defensive, easily triggered Mom-to-be transition into someone who was relaxed and smiling by the end of her visit... she had been carrying fears and mistrust from a previous traumatic birth into this new pregnancy (I hope & pray I get to see a positive birth story unfold for her).  Seeing & feeling a baby move within a belly is just plain... spiritual.  So grateful to be on this journey!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Round Peg in a Round Hole

Wow!  What a week at Clinical Bound!  If you haven't figured out already, life through my eyes will forever be through the 'filter' of our love & loss of Vivian.  It's just the way it is. 

The beginning of the week was rough... As it turns out I wasn't as successful at shaking off the anxiety as I had hoped.  I was a little preoccupied with triggers of being there the first time happy & pregnant with Vivian.  It was tough to focus and let myself relax.  Self doubt took quite a hold too.  Passing my physical assessment as well as I did, was such a boost!  The instructors were phenomenal... encouraging, passionate, funny, wise, and stepped into simulation roles like paid actresses!  Finally connecting with a core group of Frontier friends was a definite highlight too.  We shared: nail biting assessment check offs, fasciculation, never have I ever, shopping for underwear & flipflops, beef tongue suturing, simulations, Red Light Cafe, shack o'shame, sangria & warm beer, laughter & tears, salad with bugs, a syringe squirt gun, hot topics & so much more! 

How perfect it was to wrap up the week at Wendover where Mary Breckenridge lived & pursued bringing nurse midwives to the states.  In Frontier fashion, we circled up to share what we were looking forward to as midwives and where we thought we might serve or go.  It was moving to hear so many different stories & missions.  I shared a bit about Vivian and how my focus has shifted from when I was there the first time.  Perinatal loss will definitely be a part of my focus... where it takes me is yet to be determined.  It's very much a faith piece.  One instructor reminded me that Mary Breckenridge lost her 2 children and went on to do great things.  Those were and are empowering words for me.  To be among 'your people' and to be in that 'place' that fits you is a gift.  I am blessed. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017


Headed to Hyden, KY for a second time... what a whirlwind of thoughts.  On my drive, I listened to recorded instructional videos, belted out in unison with Lauren Daigle, and peeked at study notes.  Yeah, you wish you could've been my co-pilot ;)   How perfect it was to drive through a mix of sunshine, rain, and cold.  How very different I thought my path would've been 2 years ago.  Where else in the country can you attend a grad school in the mountains?  The pictures don't do it justice, but the fall colors were amazing!  On the drive here I shook off my fears of not passing my assessment check offs and leaned into being in the moment, relishing in this journey that I'm on.  I won't fail and I trust that great things are coming.  I believe Vivian was taken to derail me from this path.  Instead... I'm leaning in.  Bring on this last leg of my midwifery training! 

Sunday, October 22, 2017


2 years
Sounds like a long time but still feels so fresh.  The anticipation of her birthday seems to be the most difficult.  What surprised me this year, was how full my heart felt after opening box after box that arrived on our door steps week after week.  Vivian's story touched many and choosing to pass along her love to future families devastated by baby loss is healing.  We still have items coming in, but the final count delivered to our local hospital was: 41 bears & bunnies, 35 books for Moms & Dads.  It was such an honor to deliver love sent from so many of our family & friends!  An idea for a journal (pictured above) came to me as I was shopping for items to make her cake... when we travel we stay at VRBO or Airbnb sites and they often have a journal you can write a note to your hosts.  It occurred to me how meaningful it would be to have a journal families could write their baby's name in and maybe a note to honor the love they have.  I believe it came from Vivian :)  

 October 21st @ 1:38pm
It was dark when I let our dog out yesterday morning and as soon as I opened the door there must have been 8-10 bunnies in our back yard. The motion light lit up their white tails as they scurried away.  I've never seen so many at once.  I took it as Vivian saying "I'm here".  
We celebrated with close family & friends.  I put my amateur cake making skills in action.  I delighted in making my boys' cakes up until it wasn't cool anymore.  We lit up our front yard with 138 pink luminaries.  It was Ethan's idea to spell out her name this year.  There's definitely something spiritual about seeing her name illuminated in the darkness.   

Friday, October 20, 2017


2 years ago today I heard the worst news of my life.  "I don't see anything".  4 days earlier, I heard her heart beat for the last time.  I was catapulted into a world of nothingness.  I couldn't think straight and I'd say I went to a place deeper than feelings could go and I'm a feeler.  My family will tell you I was in shock.

When you become a part of the baby loss community, you talk to many different mothers with years of grief behind them.  Each of our stories are all a little different, but there are commonalities we share.  I've been told that the season of your baby's death will stir in your soul without you even being conscious of it (this comes from seasoned Moms who are 15+ years out).  2 years makes me still fresh on this loss journey and I can say I felt it.  Last year took me to my knees (ok, it was really a face plant) and I'm thankful this year isn't as overwhelming.  I know it's hard for those who haven't experienced a stillbirth to understand and for some reason it matters to me that others 'outside' of our community at least begin to grasp how life altering this loss is for us.  Interestingly, the last few days I've had conversations and ran into people that added to my personal journey & insights.  Over the last 2 years, I've heard stories of mothers who were in there 90's and in their final days share with their loved ones when they were asked what they were looking forward to in heaven... their number 1 answer?... they couldn't wait to see their baby.  Many struggle(d) with mental illness.  With this all said, I just want to caution you with your thinking or response...  ask yourself if what you're thinking/saying/doing is to make yourself feel better?  I did it too.  I ran into a loss Mom yesterday who interestingly I hardly knew but when I lost Vivian I thought of her and a couple other Moms I knew who had stillbirths many years ago.  I remember my response then... uncomfortable, didn't know what to say, impacted by deep sadness for them, and with one of them I had a newborn and it was as if I couldn't handle thinking let alone doing much for her recognizing the preciousness of what I held at the time.  I could've done more.  I should have.  Being uncomfortable should be our cue to do something... lean in and act. 

Speaking of uncomfortable.  I reconciled with a friend this week.  The grips of bitterness had a hold of my heart adding weight to my journey that just didn't need to be there.  It goes back to an earlier post "The response or lack of from others is life as they know it through insecurities and fears... to recognize this, keeps the grips of bitterness & blame at bay."  She was doing the best she could in the season she was in.  Lord knows, I'm not perfect & have missed the mark (see above paragraph).  Brene Brown's (she really is the bomb) BIG acronym is a freeing motto to live by:  "What Boundaries need to be in place for me to be in my Integrity in order to make the most generous Assumptions about you." LOVE this.  If we could all default to this way of thinking, how would our relationships be?  I'm trying. 

So this is a bit of a mixed post... but such is life :)  We made the decision as a family that we'd do something different each year to honor our baby girl.  This year we decided to ask for bears, bunnies and books from friends and family on Facebook.  We have a great collection to be donated to the hospital I work at to be given to baby loss families in order to help fill their empty arms.  It is absolutely giving purpose for our pain!  Our hospital has a perinatal loss budget from a volunteer group at the hospital who solely funds some of our needs, but it frankly isn't enough.  Many items are donated from several of us at the hospital, either hand made or purchased.  I have to say, it's also been cathartic for me on a personal note, to open Amazon boxes in lieu of what would have been 2 year old birthday gifts for our sweet Vivian.  It has been so good for this Momma's heart.  Those who have given have no idea how much these items mean to me and will mean to the families they're going to.  For anyone reading this who gave, THANK YOU.  For those who added a note with their gift, golden.

That's it for now.  I'll post again later tonight after our donation delivery.  We're a far cry from the nothingness we felt 2 years ago.  Focusing on the love of Vivian!

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Brene Brown Brilliance

My husband and I had the privilege of seeing Brene Brown in the flesh in Nashville on Sept 26th and she was AMAZING!  I've given countless dollars to two therapists and I have to say Brene tops them all!  Where are others like her?  My husband says combine her with Beth Moore and we'd have a revolution on our hands!  Her research and insights are brilliant. There is power in her definitions!  The messages I walked away with include:

  • Charles Feltman's definition of trust:  "choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person's actions"  
  • "True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance"
  • "Art has the power to render sorrow beautiful, make loneliness a shared experience, and transform despair into hope"
  • "In 1980 approximately 20% of Americans reported feeling lonely. Today it's more than double that percentage
  • "Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed  becomes resentment and bitterness"
  • "Belonging is being accepted for you.  Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else" 
  • "Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don't belong; you will always find it"

Monday, September 25, 2017

A student of grief

We're big movie buffs at our house.  Early on in my grief journey this scene of Mr. Incredible being attacked by the expanding black balls came to mind.  In my mind it was the perfect picture of deep grief... you can attempt to run, to hold yourself up, to fight it, to muscle through BUT it will take you down.  These moments still come and I don't think I'm any better at not trying to fight grief off.  Sadness, insecurity, fear, doubt, guilt, exhaustion, and forgetfulness are the chains linked to grief. It's debilitating, messy and unpredictable. 

I've come to a place of pause in my graduate school journey.  On the day I took my last didactic exam I broke down into tears.  I felt attacked by the expanding black balls.  Down I went.  It's been a crazy 2.5 years!  I've learned more than I ever thought I would, not only about women's health but about life.  This is what I've learned, what Vivian has taught me:
  • To love deeper, wider & with more fierceness than ever before
  • Our connection to the spiritual world is closer than we think
  • Faith is far more than feelings & isn't to be understood
  • To face the pain, to lean into it 
  • To feel what I need to feel when I feel it & let the tears fall
  • To Listen, to be quiet and really listen 
  • The highs are higher. joy is deeper
  • To be grateful for the few who have remained WITH me in this journey, who are in my arena and not in the stands (Brene Brown's influence here)
  • We suck as a culture in supporting those living with grief
  • To be a voice for loss families
  • The response or lack of from others is life as they know it through insecurities and fears... to recognize this, keeps the grips of bitterness & blame at bay
  • Compassion & empathy are the greatest gifts we can give others

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Can't sleep

Can't sleep... It's 0141.  Swirls of thoughts in my head... pictures, recap of conversations, feelings, misunderstandings, and the sad attempt of trying to make sense of what seems like a giant entangled hair ball called grief.  I'm comforted by the research I ran into while putting together a powerpoint on perinatal loss.  It stated that the intensity of grief can last 4 years or longer in parents of a stillbirth (Heazell et al., 2016).  I need these confirmations that I'm not crazy but normal.  Here's my random thoughts I just need to share:

It doesn't matter what hardships life has brought you, pain is pain so don't say that my response to the loss of Vivian is harder because you presume I haven't experienced loss before.  Bullshit.

OB providers who say "I'm here if you need me; just call if you need to see me" might be more comfortable with this, but I'd encourage you to instead say that you want to see her and offer her an appointment in a week.  If she wakes up and doesn't want to see you that day, then she can cancel.  Two very different approaches.

"Time doesn't stop, Tiffani" said in a cold hearted tone.  It's actually ok to wish it did.  AND No one knows the reality of that statement more than those suffering through grief.  A punch to the gut.

Tough love has no place in 'supporting' someone in grief.  Listen, acknowledge and encourage.

Some areas across the country are doing perinatal loss beautifully in their hospital settings.  It's a bit of a curse to hear the stories and meet those on the front lines serving & caring for families in a mighty way.  Where is the buy in here where I live?  It needs to be FAR more than something we get through as nurses and providers.

People are great first responders, fantastic really (as we're witnessing with the hurricane disasters) but we suck with follow through.

Our hospital sent out an email with an article they wanted us all to read "It's Sarah, not Stephen" educating us on the transgender population and their discomfort in not being addressed correctly.  Less than 1% of the population is transgender.  I think it's great this article was sent out.  It also makes me quite upset that we see far more families with a baby loss and yet so many health care providers are not educated on how to best care and support them.

You know how the crowd in the Hunger Games, touches their 3 fingers to their lips then holds them in the air as a tribute to Katniss?  A silent salute of sorts. It's powerful.  It may sound cheesey but I think it would be so thoughtful if we did something like it when a Mom makes her way down the hall without a baby in her arms before heading home.  It was absolute torture to be wheeled out of labor & delivery with empty arms and to see that a few looked at me with tear filled eyes while others went about tasking as usual as if it was just another day.  It was brutal and disturbing and I'll never get the images out of my head.  We need to do more.

Empathy.  It connects us.  We need it.

Heazell, A. P., Siassakos, D., Blencowe, H., Burden, C., Bhutta, Z. A., Cacciatore, J., & Downe, S. (2016). Stillbirths: Economic and psychosocial consequences. Lancet (London, England), 387(10018), 604-616.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

His 1st Drive through

Setting the stage... 15 year old son, 2001 Jeep Cherokee, driver's permit, and Chick-fil-A drive through.

It was a smooth ride arriving to the mall out lot. "Stop, STOP, STOPPPP!!!... as Mom's right foot presses into what should be a passenger side brake. Mean glare from Minivan Mom turning in front of us. Son is a little rattled now. As we approach Chick fil A drive through, son sees 2 young girls taking orders on the side and recognizes one. Face turns red. Coming to a stop, he attempts to roll down his window... there are 4 buttons and he's all thumbs... after pressing 3 (with all of the wrong windows going down), laughing, he finally presses the right one. Cute girl (a year older) says "Is this your first drive through?" Loud, red face laughing ensues!

Saturday, August 5, 2017


This is therapy, ya know.  Writing.  Telling our story and sharing what life is like after baby loss.  Here's the part that changed our lives forever... I'd just sent my application off to grad school and I was 3 days late on my period.  Off to Walgreens at 6:30 p.m. at night to buy a pregnancy test.  Seconds later 2 pink lines appear.  Tears.  I was 42 with 2 amazing boys and ready to tackle that next phase of life.  My husband embraced me and was immediately excited!  "It'll be GREAT, this will be our last and we'll go all out. Your boobs will get bigger, we'll have so much fun!" That helped.  We choose to tell our boys at the park with pictures and a personalized poem.  There were tears of joy!  The boys were over the moon with the news... ok, Nolan needed to warm up to the idea.  When we found out we were having a girl, it seemed too good to be true.  I wanted a daughter for myself but even more for my husband... ya know, the whole father/daughter relationship is sure hard to beat.  The mother/son relationship is pretty amazing and I wanted him to have that like relationship.

There was an Art fair in September that I couldn't wait to go to in order to buy these beautiful hand crafted flowers from fused colored glass... just a couple of years prior I saw them and told the artist they were perfect for a girl's room and I didn't have one.  She tried to convince me that I didn't need a girl in order to enjoy them in my home.  I just didn't have the right place at the time to justify buying a piece.  Three different colored flowers in a purple frame is what I picked out for our sweet Vivian.  My Mom & I (with my best friend at the time), picked out fabric to make her bedding and blanket to girl-ify a future nursery.  I bought clothes with pink flowers; the boys picked out lil sister onesies.  My Mom and I spent a day shopping in St. Louis for all things Vivian.  So much fun preparing for her arrival!

I remember laying down for an afternoon nap and she was kicking away.  I relished in it thinking she was so close to being on the 'outside'.  I couldn't wait to take naps with her on the outside!  It was surreal to think about Mom/daughter time.  Nolan was looking forward to living out the title of 'Big brother' and teaching her all about basketball.  Ethan just wanted to hang with her, hold her hand and play.  Josh wanted to teach her all about cars .  Of course she would have been artistic like her Momma. We made mental plans for her.  We were expecting her.

Monday I worked on call on labor & delivery.  We scheduled my induction due to cholestasis of pregnancy (such a beast!) in 2 weeks for 36 weeks.  I wasn't happy about it but with rising levels of bile acids it was the right decision.  I woke up that night at 1 a.m. in a blur noticing Vivian hadn't woken me up sooner with her kicks.  I pushed on my belly for an hour.  She moved once and I felt relieved enough to fall back asleep.  I had the thought to wake Josh up to head in to monitor her heart rate, but defaulted to thinking she had recently moved head down and it was just her change of position.  I woke up early to head to work and ate breakfast on the way.  She hadn't moved as she normally did.  I defaulted to believing she was ok.  This pregnancy, this baby girl was a gift.  I arrived at work and casually said to my best friend, who happened to be an OBGYN resident, that I hadn't felt her move since 2am.  We went into a room and couldn't hear heart tones.  We were both worried.  She stepped out to get a sono machine and came back with my nurse midwife.  The silence was eerie and looks of worry were heavy.  They step out and and return with an OBGYN MD and again look with the ultrasound machine for a heart beat.  "I don't see anything".  Words that I couldn't comprehend without translation...  I ask "What do you mean?"  She says "I don't see a heart beat".  This isn't real.  The whole 'this is too good to be true' came to be... endless tears fall.  To go from accepting that we'll never have a daughter to being pregnant to having a daughter to having her stolen is too much to bear.  My best friend had to call my husband and tell him to come to the hospital.  Thankfully my boys were just dropped off at school.

We drove home with leaves falling from the trees.  It was October; symbolic of her sweet life that slipped away.  We gathered our things through tears to head back to the hospital to begin the induction process.  The thought of her dead body inside of me was wasn't something I wanted to prolong.  The nurse I had chosen for our scheduled induction delayed her trip to Iowa to be with us (such a gift).  The boys came after school so we could tell them the horrific news.  Just how does a Mother share that her baby died inside of her?!  I'm not sure how I spoke at all.  I'll never forget their sad faces and immediate tears.  They had bragged on their lil sister to so many.  They were connected to her.  We gave them the option to stay home from school the next day, but they both stated they wanted to go to school.  It was later that I learned Nolan would be found in the bathroom crying saying to a friend that his baby sister's heart stopped beating.  Heart wrenching!  It is one thing to deal with your own grief, but yet another to muddle your way through supporting your spouse and kids while they grieve.

At 10:30 a.m. my water broke (much sooner than I was mentally prepared for).  With nubain, I pushed through each nagging contraction wondering what she was going to look like.  I was dreading her arrival. I read one loss Mom describe giving birth to death and that is what I feared.  Her birth encompassed so many feelings.. a tangible love and the cruelty of death in the flesh... a tension of opposites.  She arrived at 1:38 p.m.  My best friend just made it minutes prior.  Vivian was placed on my chest... warm and lifeless.  Silence.  Tears.  I couldn't think.  I could barely feel.  She was a combination of our boys.  She had dark hair.  She was perfect and beautiful.  There was hustle and bustle around me.  I declined giving her a bath (I regret that).  Josh held her and never before had I heard a cry so deep... wailing and gnashing of teeth just like in the bible for 15 minutes.  He held her to his chest and it was uncontrollable.  He described it later as a lifetime of love condensed into 15 minutes.  How?!  Why?!!  How do we move forward?!  God was so silent.  I never felt His presence.  Our deepest, darkest hours and we didn't sense Him.

I was grateful that my friend had arranged a photographer to come and take photos of Vivian.  It was hard to have her in our space, to be touching our precious baby girl.  Nothing about it felt right.  After a while we had enough and we asked her to leave.  The photos are priceless and my most prized possession.  To be in the space of grieving parents, though, is as intimate as it gets.

"What funeral home would you like?"  Oh Lord.  None.  We left without choosing one.  We left our baby girl in the hands of 'strangers'.  I was a mother.  The desire to mother doesn't end.  I walked away from my baby.  Her heart wasn't beating but she was still my baby.  I wasn't prepared for this.  We had no outfit small enough to put on her.  The angel gown made from wedding dresses wasn't what I wanted my baby girl to be wearing.  With my heart shattered I went shopping for a preemie baby girl outfit with my friend the next day.  I found one at a specialty gift shop that was pink and baby soft.  The gal at the check out had no idea and asked if she had already arrived.  I said nothing.  Tears in the car.  I had to pick out and buy an outfit for my dead daughter.

It's been almost 2 yrs.  I'm writing this while holding my 4lbs 4oz Molly Bear (Vivian's weight at birth).  The pain still swoops in and bowls me over.  This was a good night with my boys and my man.  I delighted in sitting around a backyard fire chatting with my youngest son and husband while watching my oldest son and his best friend put together a half pipe.  There was joy and at the same time deep sadness for Vivian not being a part of it all.  She is always missing.  I just still can't get used to swinging from the joy and sadness. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

This is how you walk on...

Our 2nd Annual Paint the Street Design 2017... Ethan struggled for weeks on a design.  I'd prompt him with ideas, themes, or a message to convey.  He can draw graffiti like nobody's business.  "Think of a word that has power, that's BIG," I said.  He came up with "Hope".  It was a true collaboration (as was last year)...he drew the word and I added the crack with the sprout.  It truly encompasses the season we're in. 
There's a popular choice award won by voters choosing their favorite square.  Last year voting was free and we promoted it for fun and came in somewhere around 6th place.  This year it cost a dollar a vote, so we didn't promote voting on Social Media, then I happened to see that we were tied for the win on the Art Association facebook page.  People were voting for us!  AND...WE WON!!!  Such joy in the day taking time out to do something creative together as a family, to break out of the daily grind.  To win was icing on the cake.  We all NEED hope.  There is BIG power in the word... It is absolutely how we keep walking. 

Monday, July 17, 2017


This is such an excellent read...
Learning to be a Gracious Griever - Still Standing Magazine

Relationships are messy, I was so very messy in my deep grief and I could either shut out well meaning people and leave a sea of broken relationships or I could learn to be gracious, inviting messy relationships, laying my expectations for others down, and experience healing in unexpected ways.

A month after my first daughter died, my husband and I walked into our church, and a young not even twenty something girl approached me. As she began to speak I knew the conversation would not go well.
“Lindsey!” she said with excitement in her voice as if she had just discovered something profound she just had to share with me.

I stood there and braced my weary, sad self as she proceeded to say “I was thinking the other day why God only allowed Sophie to live for 10 hours.” Oh no, I thought in my heart. I should have stopped her then, but I let her go on.

So many people can’t comprehend grief or loss and must figure out why something has happened to comfort their own questioning heart, where the answer surely doesn’t comfort the grieving heart. 

Often there are no answers. But she proceeded to tell me her answer for my loss, waiting in anticipation of how I would internalize her “comforting” words.  I was not comforted and I responded with less than gracious words. It was not one of my finer moments and it wasn’t the first or last time I was less than gracious.

I wish I had been more gracious and I’ll tell you why.
I have lost 2 children, and part of my journey to healing has been learning to be a gracious griever. My lack of graciousness has often left me in isolation, anger and deeper hurt. But learning to be gracious has opened my heart to healing relationships and released me from anger and resentment.
 But what does it mean to be a gracious griever?

Grace simply put is an undeserved gift. Its when we give something another does not deserve or receive something that we do not deserve. 

And graciousness is how we demonstrate grace to others. But why would we learn to become gracious in our grief?

1. Graciousness leads to forgiveness

I could not let every ill timed reply, or ill spoken words create bitterness inside of me and cause me to hold a grudge or shut that person out who I felt had no idea what they were talking about. Holding onto anger or bitterness has more often left me stuck and not moving forward in my grief. When I have chosen to be gracious I have been able to forgive even the harshest words, and it is I who have experienced greater freedom to move forward in my healing.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize that prisoner was you” –Lewis B. Smedes

2. Graciousness reminds us of our own need for grace

When grief crashed into my world it was easy to forget that just a year earlier I hardly understood how to step into the grieving heart. I know I have said my fair share of ill timed and ill spoken words, even now. It was so easy when grief arrived to set expectations on others that they “should” all of a sudden know what to say or not say.
I needed to remember that as people extended grace to me as I tried to enter into their losses (when I didn’t understand what loss was like) so I could extend grace to others. Goodness, I would sit across from my husband, grieving the loss of our daughters and neither one of us would know what to say or what the other needed.

In the depth of my own grief where unfiltered words and thoughts and pain could come out of me, I began to recognize my need for others to extend grace to me, to not grow bitter at my words, to not shut me out but to be present with me in my pain.
It wasn’t an excuse to unleash but when we have close friends who can extend grace to us in those moments it becomes a safe place for healing. I needed grace in my grief as much as I needed to extend grace. It wasn’t one sided.

3. Graciousness can speak truth in love

When I have had a posture of graciousness, choosing to believe the best in others even when their words may sting I have been able to more kindly correct and share how their words have affected me. Most of the time people aren’t intending to be hurtful, they really do want to enter in, but just don’t know how. We can help them when we are gracious.
If I could do it all over with the girl who approached me at church, I would have wanted to share with her how I’m thankful she moved towards me but often a grieving person just needs to hear I’m sorry and sometimes there are no answers to the “why”, I wonder if a sweet relationship could have developed if I had been more gracious.

As time has gone on, I have been able to more gently tell others how their words affect me and that in turn more times than not has invited authentic relationship as each of us learn how to enter into each other’s stories.

4. Graciousness invites relationship

My best friend had a baby girl just a little over a month after my second daughter passed away. And in the midst of my deep grief, I had a difficult time entering into her journey of adjusting to life with a second baby in the way I would have wanted. And as she adjusted to having a new baby she didn’t have the energy to enter into my grief in the way she wanted.
We had honest and hard conversations and were able to grieve together how we wished we could have been there for each other in ways that we just weren’t able at the time. Choosing to enter into the messiness that surfaced in our season of loss and gain allowed a relationship that could have easily been broken to become stronger and sweeter. And while not every relationship may unfold this way, we may be surprised at the ones that do when we choose to be gracious.

Relationships are messy, I was so very messy and I could either shut out well meaning people and leave a sea of broken relationships or I could learn to be gracious, inviting messy relationships, laying my expectations for others down, and experience healing in unexpected ways.

It is easy to be a bitter, grudge holding, angry griever. It is challenging to be a gracious griever. But could it be that while learning to be a gracious griever may open us up to the risk of being wounded, it could also open us up to sweeter relationships, to deeper love, greater hope and healing?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Giving in to a new normal...

My favorite go to blog during this grief journey has been and this was a letter contributed by another loss Mom and it spoke to me enough to share.  The collateral damage of grief is pain on top of pain...the loss of a best friend and the reminders of the good times are almost daily.  To be a friend to a Mom of a loss takes courage, patience, grace, love and empathy... you never know what the day will bring.  To walk WITH another during the joys and pains is true friendship.  It's hard to accept when a person you were once so close to isn't capable anymore and in the same breath you can't blame them.  Had our joy & sorrows been reversed, I wouldn't have walked away. 

Dear Friend,
It’s been awhile since I’ve contacted you. I was busy. Busy surviving. Busy grieving.

I have been more focused on my journey and me than anyone else’s. I had to. For my own and my family’s sake. Otherwise I might no longer be around.
My child has died and even if/though this is months or even years ago, my memory is as fresh as if it was yesterday. For the outside world it has become a story, the story people tell each other at the shop about the woman who lost her baby. But even those conversations have started to die as the news is no longer headline worthy. In the best of cases, it has become a memory. A fading memory.
I might seem better from the outside and in comparison to the first weeks and months I am… Or so it seems. And then grief rolls over me like the unexpected wave that catches me from behind. These were the moments I didn’t recognise myself. The moments I was the crazy ‘new normal’ woman loudly cursing every detail about her life, wishing death upon her to end this pain. This however usually happened (not so) quietly behind closed doors. They have become less frequent… By not contacting you, you were spared those moments. You wouldn’t have liked them. I didn’t and still don’t. You might have been so shocked by your ‘new normal’ friend that you never contacted her again.

It has been a hard road to get used to the ‘new normal’ me, which honestly is nothing like the normal me you and I knew. Ask the husband, the rock – who knows how he managed to not walk out the door. I’ve kept the ‘new normal’ inside a lot because you see, she has no (or little) social grace. I prefer to spend time with her by my own, not that she is pleasurable company but she just doesn’t fit in my life pre-loss. It was my way to save whatever face was left.
I haven’t just been a crappy ‘new normal’ friend I’ve also been crappy ‘new normal’ mother, wife, sister, daughter, human being. Once I’ve realised that I actually had to merge with the ‘new normal’ myself, I struggled with this truth. She or rather I had to relearn what it means to live, to treat people, to care for myself, to be in relationship, to be a responsible human being, to treat things and people respectfully… Most of all myself.
The ‘new normal’ doesn’t have energy nor desire to be pleasing as I was before. I’ve given up on returning to or getting back the self that used to be me – I’ve given in on being ‘new normal’. Resistance is exhausting and fruitless. The more honest and straight-forward I’ve noticed the ‘new normal’ was and is, the less socially digestible I’ve found myself to be. A simple ‘starting-a-conversation’ question like “and how many children do you have?” make the ‘new normal’ a party killer. And for those who know the story, I can imagine them rolling their eyes and thinking: “Here we go again…”
The sad truth is I’ve become quite used to the fact that my friends prefer to stay away from ‘new normal’ and I can sort of understand their potential motivation. As much as the ‘new normal’ has needed to talk about it she/I might have also strained your ears and overused your capacity to listen. I myself would prefer the ‘new normal’ would be able to tell a different life story.

Now I want to be a good new normal friend.
The new normal good friend is honest, real and authentic.
When I integrate the new normal…
I will call or contact you when I truly feel like it.

I will tell it like it is.
I will always mention all my children, dead or alive.
I will learn to love myself, life and what I’ve come here for.
I will appreciate your patience, love and care.
I will be human, fallible and imperfect.
And I’ll hope to meet you in your humanness too.

-Nathalie Himmelrich

Wednesday, June 7, 2017


This morning we exhume Vivian's body to be cremated.  My family will be with us.  My mother and father in law, my parents and my brother.  'With' has never held more meaning than this season of our lives.  When others have disappointed me with their 'with'ness, it is the passage in Isaiah (43:2-3,5) I cling to... "When you pass through the waters I will be with you and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  Do not be afraid for I am WITH you."  Blessed and grateful for my family today. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

We met with the funeral home director.  It's set.  Vivian will be exhumed on Wednesday next week.  For the last year and a half, her body has rested in Babyland (I hate the name and everything about the place) where her plot is unmarked, covered by grass, as if no one is there.  I don't visit.

"What funeral home would you like?" None, thank you.  We left our baby girl at the hospital because we didn't want to pick blindly and our family with us, were in as much shock as we were incapable of providing guidance.  Just because her heart wasn't beating doesn't mean for one second I wasn't still mothering her.  How do you walk away from your baby?  She didn't belong in the morgue.  Cremation or burial?  With heads spinning, we chose burial and never really gave cremation a thought.  Not sure why.  It was several months later a class mate of mine in grad school lost her little boy in a horrific tragic accident.  She had shared pictures of she along with her other two kids painting the white casket her son would be buried in.  Oh, how I loved the idea...the images were powerful!  Why didn't we think of that or why hadn't someone let us know it was an option.  Gee, maybe because so few bury their babies.  How do you pick out a headstone?  What words do you choose to honor the life you knew, that so few got to meet?  It was an impossible task for us.  We wanted something one of a kind like she was.  We met with tattoo to fine artists thinking an image for a tattoo or print could also be translated into an image to use on her grave stone.  Either they wanted something turn key or there was an obstacle with how the drawing would be 'transferred' to the stone.  Nothing was falling into place.  Out of the blue the thought came, find a hand made clay vessel to hold her ashes in, hike Sawteeth Mountain in the Adirondacks with your boys and spread some of her ashes off the summit.  Finally, something felt right for us.  Peace.

This is a reminder of how little families are supported through baby loss.  This is just one piece out of so many decisions or connections to be made that are missed.  How ill equipped staff/nurses/providers are in facilitating a family through choices that absolutely can and do lead to BIG regrets.  I so wish we would have had someone sit with us and walk us through our choices and the possible effects of those decisions.  Some communities have bereavement counselors, trained nurses, pastoral care and volunteers on call to step into this role.  We're working toward this in our hospital, but nothing comes quickly and time is limited.  My heart hurts for families who are falling through the cracks.  They deserve every resource available, compassion, time, and someone to connect the dots unique to their story of love. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017


The word serenity came to me while reflecting on my day today...I google search the word looking for an image that visually captures the meaning of it. This is what pops up.  It's actually another perfect addition to my day. If you're not familiar with the series Firefly, this is a ship from that show. My husband and I watched the whole series during a Netflix blitz.  Not only was it a good show, but it was time the two of us enjoyed together.  He's the love of my life.

Today my heart felt light, free, unfiltered...not tethered to pain, loss, insecurities, expectations, or fears.  So many days I fight to get through; it's rare to have a full day of exhaling and breathing in life.  The hard work of being in the middle and working through my grief feels like I was given a reward today.

The sun was shining (we always think of Vivian with the sunshine), I enjoyed a coffee chat, took son #1 driving, watched the season finale of Survivor with my family and laughed a fair amount today.  Time stood still like it did when my boys were little...soaking up the moment of watching my oldest grip the steering wheel and jerk his way through a turn a little too fast but all the while seeing him grinning ear to ear... It was forever captured in my mind's eye.  To witness him try hydro painting a scooter part that didn't go as planned and how he tempered his disappointment a little more than he has in the past was a gift to witness. Son #2 walks in the door and greets me with a warm genuine "I had a good day".  Those words are golden.  The last year and a half has been tough on them.  He's been in a long season of being defensive and short.  He was soft today, kind hearted, and thoughtful.  Ethan invited Nolan to the garage to hang out and help him on the painting prep.  Nothing warms a Momma's heart more than to see her kids connecting.   Quick wit rolled off the tongues of both of them during Survivor and we all laughed.  The unsolicited full arms wrapped around your neck hugs before bed... priceless.

Thank you God for joy today.  The middle is making me new.  I am blessed.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In the 'messy middle'

I need to say a few things... I am hopeful, I have security in my faith, I'm optimistic, I see beauty, I am strong, and I love life.

The truth is, that only less than 1% of the population can truly relate to what myself & family have been through.  Few my age have known a deep loss on the same scale.  It's isolating, it's f***ing lonely.  One author said it well "the loss of a baby is just the beginning of loss."  So true.  You learn who your friends are (the good ones are rare).

There isn't a day that I haven't gotten out of bed, I'm holding on to a 3.8 grade point average in grad school (just started the program after we lost Vivian), my marriage remains strong, my kids seem to be happy and sane, I care for others as a nurse, and I started a perinatal loss committee at the hospital I work at to make a difference in the lives of future families with a loss.  Life hasn't stopped and we've never been more aware that it doesn't.  We have instant perspective on the fragility of life, so we don't need to hear that it could be worse.  I think we're persevering, but we still need to talk about the path we're on with our grief.  It's so intertwined with our daily lives.  To bring it up in conversation is a need.  When I say this, I'm confident I'm not playing the 'woe is me card', I'm not wanting you to feel sorry for me and I'm not wanting to make you feel uncomfortable or guilty.  Tough love is far from helpful and minimizing what we think or are experiencing hurts.  Throw out something encouraging, anything.  Say you were reminded of Vivian somehow/somewhere.  Listen even for just a few minutes.

 Brene Brown (my best friend in print) says we can't skip the messy middle.  We're definitely smack in the middle.  We'll come out stronger and better and all that other great stuff.  We didn't have that 'academy award winning' recovery that our culture so loves and claps for, but we need to be in this place... the messy middle. For those who have listened and been in the arena with us (a Brene Brown phrase - if you haven't read one of her books, you really should), we are beyond grateful!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Navigating life after baby loss

The thoughts come without warning. My stream of consciousness is like a river. Now and then there's snags that ensnare you. You break free but there's always another one coming... My boss shows us new pictures of her beautiful young granddaughters and points out their coordinating outfits that she bought referring to herself as "Mimi'. The tears flood my eyes instantly as to what would have been... the thought of my Mother showing off a picture of her granddaughter in an outfit she delighted in buying. A snag from the river. I suck back the tears and break free.

The cheering from a sweet, small voice just a few feet away..."Go Mason, go Mason, go!" A little sister rooting for her big brother at the track meet. Snagged. Vivian would have been hanging from the fence too, cheering on her big brother. Nolan would have LOVED it. I break free once again.

Watching my husband hold and feed a friend's baby - this is his first time he's held a baby since our loss of Vivian. I take notice like looking through a camera lens (the old kind, not on a digital screen), there's no joy on his face as there would have been had our baby girl been held by us all these months. Snagged. Loss just keeps showing up. We keep breaking free.